CHARD DEVELOPMENT is proposing the City’s first purpose‐built hotel since 2004 along Broad Street to the corner of Johnson in Old Town. It would preserve the front of one of the historic buildings on the site, the Duck’s Building, built in 1874 at 1330 Broad Street. It would also add a floor ontop of it and gut the interior. And it would demolish the 1892 former Canada Hotel at 615-625 Johnson, also on the City’s heritage registry and on the national registry of historic places. Another building would be constructed at the south end of the Duck’s Building where a parking lot now exists. Both rezoning and Heritage Alteration Permits are required to proceed.
This properties are owned by the University of Victoria, a legacy from Michael Williams, a local developer, heritage conservationist and philanthropist. The development of a hotel on the site allows UVic—by way of a 99‐year land lease—to obtain annual income and retain ownership of the land. If approved, this development will bring 139 hotel rooms with supporting retail to Victoria’s Old Town District.
Initially Chard and UVic proposed to offer 60 units of student housing as well as approximately 100 condos in the development, but shifted focus in late 2019. The latest revisions for the hotel proposal were received by the City in February 2020, just in advance of the pandemic’s crushing pressure on the hotel industry.
The proposed demolition of the Canada Hotel is not looked upon favourably by many. Former City councillor and long-time heritage advocate Pamela Madoff told CBC: “The demolition of that building would be the first time a building with such heritage credentials would have been considered for demolition and nothing like this has happened in Old Town since the 1980s.” Chard has argued that (unlike the Duck’s Building), the Canada Hotel had serious structural problems and no remaining heritage value other than one wall which will be preserved.
After the latest plans were submitted last February 2020, the Downtown Residents Association (DRA) wrote the City. Though not opposed to the use of the property as a hotel, it relayed concerns around the demolition of one building and the “facadism” applied to the Duck’s Building: “The Heritage Conservation strategy for this application is based solely on the retention of the front and rear facades and some token materials recovered from the interior of the Duck Building. Contrary to the Staff assertion that this proposal is “generally consistent” with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada…the façadism proposed for this application is not recognized as an acceptable heritage conservation strategy by the National Standards or by most heritage professionals and experts.”
The DRA also expressed opposition to the developer’s request for a relaxation in height from the recommended maximum to allow an additional sixth storey. “The increase in density supported by staff above OCP maximums for a heritage conservation strategy (which is not supported by the national standards) appears overgenerous to say the least. On one hand, the applicant is offering the cheapest, easiest and unrecognized form of heritage retention while being rewarded with a very significant density bump.”